The church in Livingstonia

Chitimba Beach was our next stop on Lake Malawi. Besides being a beautiful location on the northern end of the lake, it’s also a popular stop because of it’s proximity to Manchewe Falls and the community of Livingstonia. We were staying for two nights, so on the full day we decided to venture out on a guided walk to Livingstonia. It’s nearly 15 kilometres and 3000 vertical feet from Chitimba Beach, and there’s only one very rough road connecting it to the rest of the world. We headed out at 7:00am and psyched ourselves up for a long day.

We were accompanied by our guide, Wisdom, and 7 others from our truck. The road we took was rutted and loose, and it wound in switchbacks into the hills above the lake. Once in a while there were shortcuts that went straight up the hill and cut distance off, at the expense of sweaty exertion. It was quickly getting warm, and sweat was pouring off our noses as we went. Our group was quickly split, with a handful of the keener and faster hikers pulling away up the steep sections, and the slower and more relaxed hikers hung back with Wisdom. We elected to be a part of the slower and more relaxed group, and I think it was the right choice: it turned out that having Wisdom with us worked to our advantage in a few different ways.

Manchewe Falls

After about 3.5 hours of walking, we finally came to the lookout over Manchewe Falls. It was spectacular! We had no idea what to expect, and to be honest, we thought it was just going to be a little trickle in the woods somewhere. It turns out that the falls plunge several hundred feet down a sheer cliff face. How sheer? Well, as we stood on the brink admiring it, Steve bent over to take a picture, and his water bottle fell out of its sling. One bounce and it was gone for good. None of us even contemplated making a grab for it. We left the edge and made our way along a path, and we had a chance to cool off in the surprisingly cold waters that feed the falls. Wisdom got us out of paying the admission fee at the viewpoint and the swimming hole — advantage number one of staying with the guide.

Swimming above the falls - cold!

After our refreshing dip, we hiked the last hour and a half up to Livingstonia, which is named (obviously, perhaps) after the notorious Dr. Livingstone (I presume). When we inquired further about the name, all our guide could tell us is that it was named such as a way of remembering and honoring him, and nothing more. Being originally founded as a missionary community, the settlement has a surprising array of modern conveniences on offer, despite its remote location. There is a primary and a secondary school, as well as a technical college and a small university. There is a community maize mill, a hospital, and even an arts and crafts café that offers internet services. And of course, there is a very large church, made of local brick and stone by local hands. It was a beautiful spot, but it felt a little surreal, since the schools were on holiday. It made the place seem a little bit underused, considering everything that was there, but I suppose this would have been different with students around. As we walked up the main road, we passed the forerunners of our little group, already making their way back down. We bid them good walking, and off they went. After touring around for a bit, enjoying a cold Coke from the only local shop with ice (advantage number two of staying with the guide), and climbing the church bell tower, we also turned and headed for home.

The only place in town with cold drinks

By this point we’d been gone for six hours already, and early afternoon was quickly turning into late afternoon. The five of us left (and Wisdom, of course) plodded along, not so much dreading the walking itself, but simply the great distance we had left to cover. Even our sub-group started to split, as three of us started to take more of the steep shortcuts to speed our descent. As Steve, Meg and I rested briefly, at the bottom of one such shortcut, we looked up to see a pickup truck bouncing along the road, with Wisdom and our other two companions in the back! They pulled over and asked if we’d like to hop in for the last 5km of the descent, and we happily obliged. Advantage number three of staying with the guide! The ride was bumpy and painful, but it saved us about an hour and a half of walking, for which we were very glad. We decided not to tell the other four hikers from our truck that we’d caught a ride, just for fun. In fact, as I write this, they still don’t know! Perhaps this post will be what finally catches us out. Even with the truck ride, we hiked 24km that day, and our legs were happy to rest at the bottom while we enjoyed hot fries and cold beers. It was a very worthwhile day trip, with stunning views of the huge expanse of Lake Malawi — but I think I might have some sore legs tomorrow.

Chitimba Beach


  1. Mother Goose

  2. What no animals? The photo above must have been taken at the Point, at Constance Bay. Tell me you’re really just hiding out at the Bay?

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